The Vocabula Review

April 2008, Vol. 10, No. 4 Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Mock Merriam
Web version
 

The eleventh edition of "America's Best-Selling Dictionary," Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Frederick C. Mish, editor in chief), does as much as, if not more than, the famously derided Webster's Third International Dictionary to discourage people from taking lexicographers seriously. "Laxicographers" all, the Merriam-Webster staff reminds us that dictionaries merely record how people use the language, not how people ought to use the language. Some dictionaries, and certainly this edition of Merriam-Webster, actually promote illiteracy.

Consider the following entry from the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's, and perhaps you, too, will mock Merriam:


fiske (v.) 1. to rail against dull-witted lexicographers and More ...

def adj.: slang: cool.

Inflected form(s): def-fer; def-fest

Etymology: Probably alteration of death (from the phrase to death excessively).

The following paragraph, until a couple of years ago, was posted on the Merriam-Webster website:

Many new words pass out of English as quickly as they entered it, the fad of teenagers grown to adulthood, the buzzwords of the business meetings past, the cast-off argot of technologies superceded [sic], the catchy phrases from advertisements long forgotten. It is likely that many such ephemeral coinages will never be entered in dictionaries, especially abridged dictionaries where space (or time or money or all of the above) are at a premium. That does not mean, however, that the words did not exist, simply that they did not endure.

Odd that Mish and his minions would then agree to the addition of def and other ephemera to the eleventh edition.

Merriam-Webster's promotes the slangy def, but it does not include the far more interesting and useful diaskeuast. (Apparently, diaskeuast is included at unabridged.merriam-webster.com. But it costs $29.95 a year to learn, from Merriam-Webster, a 50-cent word like diaskeuast.)

Merriam-Webster: no longer "your assurance of quality and authority."

Mock Merriam.

More Mock Merriam

Do you find fault with an entry in the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary? Tell us what it is.

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